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Aishwarya, the self-taught blind painter, creates tactile works that everyone can enjoy

We love it when our readers write in to us and share their stories, like this one from Hyderabad. Read about the incredibly creative Aishwarya, who did not let vision loss stop her from pursuing her love for art.

When T V Aishwarya lost her vision at the age of 19, she never thought she would hold a brush again. Aishwarya was in the third year of her graduation in the year 2008 when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Over the next few months, along with her vision, she lost her hearing, sense of smell, taste, and suffered short-term memory loss.

"I was also heading for paralysis of my right limbs, recalls Aishwarya. "It was a matter of life and death. I recuperated within nine months and all my senses, besides vision, were restored in less than a year's time.

For five years Aishwarya was home, often battling depression as she came to terms with giving up on her ambition of making films.

She fought through this state of mind and enrolled at the Institute for Vision Rehabilitation (IVR) in Hyderabad, which has rehabilitation programs for people with vision loss. It was here that she got back into painting in a way she never imagined..

I was always interested in art as my grandfather and mother were into art themselves. So, I would copy their works of art even as a child. In 2017, my workplace conducted a painting workshop for persons with vision loss, facilitated by a company called Anybody Can Paint. I learned abstract painting but I also realized the need to create tactile paintings so people with vision loss could enjoy art too. - T V Aishwarya, Counsellor & Painter

Aishwarya's tactile paintings are the outcome of a carefully thought through process. First, she thinks of a concept and then starts selecting and mixing colours appropriate to the message she wants to communicate.

"I take help to mix my colours and I am very specific about this. If I want brown, I specify dark chocolate brown, teak brown, etc. I tell the person which colours to mix to arrive at that specific shade. Aishwarya then covers the areas she does not want to paint so she can focus on the specific area she is working on.

The choice of materials used in the paintings are tactile. "They could be anything from paper, beads, coffee cups, ice cream sticks, straws, etc. For example, in my painting, 'A Tranquil Moment', I used aluminium foil to make leaves, a man and his dog. I shaped the foil in the appropriate shapes and then glued paper around it and finger-painted it..

The result is works that are stunning to see and touch. More importantly, they are accessible to everyone. Having developed this, Aishwarya now wants other visually impaired people to experience the joy of creating art.

Aishwarya's dedication and commitment to creating tactile art has impressed people around her. Dr Beula Christy, Head of Department at the Institute of Vision Rehabilitation, says her painting skills are just another sign of Aishwarya's creative skills.

"Be it poetry or writing, Aishwarya's is spontaneous and creative, says Dr Christy. "She has been with us for many years and is always full of ideas and very active when it comes to office activities. She has never made anyone here feel that she is unable or unwilling to do anything. She is part and parcel of everything we do.

Aishwarya is not sure whether she will take up art professionally but she is clear that she wants to spread this knowledge among the visually impaired community. She plans to hold workshops to create awareness in the community.

"I want to spread this knowledge among people who think they will not be able to paint because they are blind, she says. "I am in the process of organizing a workshop and exhibition which will bring people with and without vision loss together so they can experience art together.



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